Darren McCarty waves to fans at the Huntington Center on Friday night. The former Red Wing forward played from 1993-2009 with Detroit and won four Stanley Cups.
The Blade/Andy Morrison
Former Detroit Red Wings forward Darren McCarty knows just how intimidating Joe Louis Arena can be and the home ice advantage it provides.
Even McCarty, a physical grinder who helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups in his career from 1993 to 2009, never experienced the utter dominance the current team has enjoyed.
The Red Wings strung together 23 straight wins at The Joe before the streak was snapped with a 4-3 shootout loss to Vancouver on Thursday night.
"If you look at the history of Joe Louis Arena, it's one of the toughest rinks to play in," said McCarty, a blue-collar player who endeared himself to Detroit fans. He dropped the ceremonial puck prior to last night's Walleye game at the Huntington Center.
"[Teams] come into the building and are scared. They've made Joe Louis like it was back in the '90s when we played," he said. "People don't want to go in there and play.
"It's pretty amazing. Nobody has ever done 23 in a row at home in the history of the league. That tells you something."
McCarty said he thought the Red Wings would extend the streak to 24 before Daniel Sedin scored with 15.4 seconds left in regulation. Alex Burrows had the only goal in the shootout.
"They didn't play their best game. But they were still 15 seconds away from [winning]," McCarty said. "It will be a sour taste in their mouths because they know they had that game in hand. They will come out [Saturday] and I'm sure they will start it again."
McCarty said he believes Detroit and Vancouver will meet in the Western Conference finals. McCarty played in 17 playoff games in the 2007-08 season when the Wings won their last Stanley Cup.
McCarty scored a crucial goal in the decisive game of the 1997 Stanley Cup finals against Philadelphia to help the Wings win their first title in 42 years. It was a beautiful goal, juking his way around a defenseman near the blue line before of faking out goalie Ron Hextall and sliding the puck in the net.
"I barely remember it," McCarty joked. "I beat a guy one-on-one just one time in my career and I guess it came at the right time. It was an out of body experience. It will be etched in my mind forever."
McCarty became a member of a steady and abrasive trio of forwards nicknamed the "Grind Line" with Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper. All three are now retired.
"We all grew up together," McCarty said. "We're still really tight. We're brothers."
McCarty, who now spends his time playing in the rock band Grinder, also appeared recently on the reality show Hardcore Pawn. He said he is now employed by the pawn shop and will appear on future episodes.
McCarty said he has made several trips over the years to Toledo to play with his rock band.
"I've come down for Mud Hens games and things like that," he said. "Toledo is like South Detroit. I consider Toledo a suburb of Detroit. I love the people around here. I've made some good friends throughout the years."
McCarty called the Huntington Center and Fifth Third Field "two of the nicest minor league stadiums around."
"There is so much for people to find here. You should be proud of that," McCarty said.
"I'm happy to make the trip down [Interstate] 75 every time."